An Overzealous Media and Ambitious Politicians Are Bad For Justice and Science

The legal world appears always framed by the current hot social media case. Recently, America was divided by a Florida murder case that generated feelings of frustration on both sides of the issues of justice and race. Some folks felt like the system had failed while others felt as though justice was done. Many said they had a difficult time participating in the “legal wrangling” that took place because of the moral issues that were at play in the case. When politics drives the law, the end result is usually injustice.

Meanwhile, a man in Ohio pled guilty and was sentenced to a lifetime in prison for his involvement in over 900 charges of abduction, rape, and imprisonment of three women where many felt that the only appropriate punishment was death. The media covered these cases with great vigor. In each case, however, it appeared that the media attempted to create news instead of reporting it. Most of the coverage of the Ohio case was aimed at the horrific nature of the crime and respecting the rights of the victims while the coverage of the Florida case tended to be more inflammatory and attempted to build controversy from both sides.

We citizens, regardless of how the media portrays an event or how the politics of the situation are being spun, must remember that justice ought always rule the day. Politics, just like the media, often interferes with law as well. A couple of months ago, a report from the National Traffic Safety Bureau (NTSB) recommended that the legal threshold for breath or blood DWI alcohol levels be reduced from .08 to .05. Many politicians seized this opportunity to use the report to call for stricter laws in an effort to look tough on crime. Interestingly, not too long ago, the legal threshold for intoxication in DWI cases was.15, then .10, and then, .08. It is noteworthy that some states refused to reduce that number to the new recommended level of .08 from .10 until the government withheld federal road funding from them and forced their hands. Many described this withholding as political blackmail and correctly complained that politics was trying to change the laws of science.

Obviously driving while intoxicated is dangerous but the question is; “will this solve or even reduce the problem?” Some say that it will not. Others say that many innocent drivers will be wrongly arrested. Still others say why not just outlaw driving if you have alcohol in your body, i.e. just forget about impairment and make it illegal to drive after drinking.  What do you think?